Have you been experiencing itching sensation on your scalp too often? Does your scalp feel scaly, flaky and painful? Tinea capitis (scalp ringworm) might be the underlying reason.
Tinea capitis is highly contagious and might turn out to be a serious scalp condition, if not properly cared. But on the bright side, you can prevent the infection from spreading with proper hygiene routines, simple ayurvedic remedies and right medications.
Scroll down to know what causes tinea capitis, its symptoms and how to treat this scalp condition.
What Is Tinea Capitis?
Tinea capitis, also known as scalp ringworm , is a fungal infection which occurs in your scalp and hair shaft. It involves both your skin and hair. Tinea capitis commonly occurs in toddlers and children.  However, it can affect adults too. It causes itchy scalp, patches, bald spots, fragile hair, etc. In a few cases, the scalp ringworm may lead to severe inflammation at the origin, resulting in permanent hair loss or scarring.
Fungus is the primary causative agent of scalp ringworm. It is known as ringworm as it indicates a circular or ring-like red and itchy rash on your scalp. The various types of ringworm are often named on the basis of the spot of infection in the body.
Around 40 different fungal species may cause ringworm in your body. The scientific names for the fungal types which cause ringworm are Epidermophyton, Microsporum, and Trichophyton. The areas which are commonly affected by the ringworm include:
1. Fingernails or toenails (Onychomycosis or tinea unguium)
2. Hands (tinea manuum)
3. Beard (tinea barbae)
4. Scalp (tinea capitis)
5. Buttocks, inner thighs or groin (tinea cruris or jock itch)
6. Feet (tinea pedis or Athlete’s foot)
7. Various parts of the body like legs or arms (tinea corporis)
What Are The Symptoms Of Tinea Capitis?
The symptoms of tinea capitis differ based on an individual’s immune system, the type of hair infection, and the type of infecting fungal species. However, the most common symptom is patches on your scalp that causes intense itching.
Some of the other symptoms of scalp ringworm include:
A. Painful or tender areas on the scalp
B. Fragile or brittle hair that easily breaks while pulling
C. Patches on the scalp which have tiny, black dots where your hair has broken off
D. Reddened, grey or scaly areas
E. Patches which gradually enlarge or expand 
F. More than one round scaly patches where your hair has broken off just above or near your scalp
Vedix Tip: Different scalp conditions may have identical appearances. Thus, it is best to consult your doctor if you notice excessive itching on your scalp or sudden hair loss. Remember that it is important to ask for an accurate diagnosis of your scalp condition to treat it rightly.
What Are The Causes Of Tinea Capitis?
Tinea capitis is primarily caused by a certain species of fungi known as dermatophytes. They invade the outer layers of your scalp and hair. Dermatophyte fungi grow on dead tissue cells, specifically on those which are moist and warm. Even a small injury may increase the risk of a ringworm infection.
The infection can also rapidly spread if your skin comes in contact with that of an infected person or if you use their towels, hair combs, or any other personal item. Sometimes, pets in your house may also carry this infection and rapidly spread it.
At least eight types of dermatophytes are known to be responsible for causing tinea capitis. However, the two most commonly known species which are responsible for causing scalp infection are Microsporum fungi and Trichophyton fungi. Microsporum infections are more prevalent in the Middle East, Africa, Central and Southern Europe, Asia-Pacific and South America whereas Trichophyton infections predominate in parts of Western Europe, United States and Central America.
How To Treat Tinea Capitis?
1. Ayurvedic Treatment
As per Ayurveda, the aggravation of three doshas – Kapha, Pitta and Vata – predominantly Kapha and Vata leads to a skin and scalp condition known as Dadru . The aggravated Kapha and Vata doshas affect the lasika, mamsa, raktha and rasa of the human body along with the deeper tissues. This aggravation causes intense itching on your scalp and skin and formation of a papule (raised bump on the skin), followed by severe hair breakage.
Ayurveda’s holistic approach and treatment provides natural remedies without any serious side effects. However, you should take these ayurvedic medications under the guidance of an Ayurveda doctor as the medicine dosage may vary as per the age and condition of an individual.
A. Arogyavardhini Vati
This is a proven Ayurvedic formulation focusing on improving your general health. It helps to maintain your body fat index, controls the hormonal level, and is an excellent immune modulator. Besides, it is an effective remedy for treating scalp ringworm due to its antimicrobial activity. The natural ingredients of the formulation include:
- Neem juice – Azadirachta indica
- Abhrak bhasma – Calcined mica
- Haritaki – Terminalia chebula
- Vibhitaki – Terminalia bellerica
- Amalaki – Emblica officinalis
- Shudha shilajatu
- Shudha guggulu – Commiphora mukul
- Castor – Ricinus communis
- Katuki – Piccorhiza kurroa
- Shudha gandhaka – Purified sulphur
- Shudha parade – Purified mercury
- Loha bhasma – Calcinied iron
Dosage-Take two tablets a day with lukewarm water after your meals.
B. Navakarshik Choorna
This Ayurvedic remedy is an excellent blood purifier, as it cleanses the blood and balances the protein metabolism. As its name signifies, it has nine ingredients which are taken in equal proportions - karsha pramana (12 gms each). The list of ingredients includes:
Dosage- Take half a teaspoon with lukewarm water daily after your meals.
C. Neem Capsules
Neem capsules are formulated with standardized neem (azadirachta indica) extract. It helps in improving the health of your hair and skin. Due to its potent anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activities, neem is considered as an effective remedy for most of the skin diseases like psoriasis, eczema, acne and ringworm.
Dosage- Take one to two capsules with lukewarm water after your meals, twice a day.
D. Gandhaka Rasayana
It is an excellent anti-inflammatory agent prepared from Shudh Gandhak. Due to its adaptogenic, antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, Gandhaka Rasayana is an effective treatment for tinea capitis. It is also considered one of the most potent formulations in Ayurveda for treating any type of skin ailment.
Dosage- Take two capsules with lukewarm water after your meals twice daily.
2. Herbal Remedies
Garlic is frequently used to treat various types of skin and hair infections.  Even though there is no scientific research or study which proves the efficacy of garlic on ringworm, it has shown brilliant results against different types of fungi, including Cyptococcus, Torulopsis and Candida.
If you want to use garlic to treat your scalp condition, blend a few garlic cloves with coconut or olive oil to make a thick paste. Apply a thin layer of this paste on your scalp and hair and cover it with gauze. Allow it to stay for at least two hours and rinse it with an herbal shampoo. Repeat the steps twice daily until the signs and symptoms disappear.
If the garlic paste causes redness, swelling, or stinging, immediately rinse off and stop applying it further.
B. Soapy Water
To prevent the spread of your scalp infection to other areas of your body, you should keep your skin dry and clean as much as possible. You can achieve this by rinsing the infection with warm water and soap twice a day. Remember to dry the affected region fully, as the fungus proliferates in moist areas.
Always remember to clean and dry the skin following the above-mentioned method before using any other home remedies.
C. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is known for its antifungal properties, especially in treating Candida related infections.
To treat your scalp infection using apple cider vinegar, take a cotton wool pad and soak it in undiluted vinegar. Wipe your affected scalp area with the soaked cotton wool pad. Repeat the step at least thrice daily for best results.
D. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is an excellent natural remedy for several skin, hair and digestive ailments. Due to its six antiseptic properties, aloe vera exhibits antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal characteristics.
You can apply freshly extracted aloe vera gel onto your scalp patch 3-4 times daily for instant relief from swollen and itchy skin. Apart from cooling properties, the gel also alleviates your skin infection, when used regularly.
E. Coconut Oil
Certain fatty acids present in coconut oil may eliminate the fungal agents by destroying their cell membranes. Research has shown that coconut oil can act as an effective natural remedy for people with mild to moderate scalp infections.
You can apply liquified coconut oil onto your affected scalp location thrice daily to treat your scalp ringworm.. You can also use the coconut oil as a lotion, which helps in preventing any ringworm infection in the near future.
F. Grapefruit Seed Extract
A few studies suggest that grapefruit seed extract can help in treating fungal infections of your skin and hair.
You can mix one drop of grapefruit seed extract with some water and apply it to your affected scalp region twice a day to treat ringworm.
Turmeric is popularly used in Ayurvedic medicine due to its anti-inflammatory properties. It is a natural healer. Turmeric contains curcumin  , a natural compound that is known to offer numerous health benefits. Various studies have identified curcumin’s antimicrobial properties.
You can add a few teaspoons of turmeric in your cooking or include it in your tea to reap maximum health benefits. To treat your scalp ringworm, make a paste by mixing turmeric with coconut oil or water and apply it on the affected region. Allow it to dry before washing it off.
Remember that it stains your skin and leaves behind a yellow tinge, which eventually fades away in a few days.
H. Powdered Licorice
A commonly used medicinal herb in traditional Chinese practice, licorice is popularly known for its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antiviral properties.
To treat the scalp ringworm, mix three tablespoons of its powdered form into some water. Bring the herbal mixture to a boil, lower the flame and allow it to simmer for around 5-10 minutes. It will form a thick paste after cooling down.
Apply the thick paste to the patches on your scalp twice daily. Leave it for 10 minutes to dry off before rinsing or wiping off.
I. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil has been widely used as a natural remedy for treating various fungal and bacterial skin conditions by native Australians. Nowadays, it is both effective and popular in treating scalp ringworm.
For sensitive skin type, make a two percent dilution of this oil to treat your scalp ringworm. Mix one ounce of any cold-pressed carrier oil like olive or coconut oil with twelve drops of tea tree oil. Apply the mix onto your affected scalp region thrice daily.
For those who have non-sensitive skin type, you can directly apply the essential oil to your affected scalp region without any dilution.
J. Oregano Oil
Oregano oil which is made Origanum vulgare, a wild type of oregano, has two potent antifungal agents known as carvacrol and thymol.
Research suggests that oregano oil can inhibit the growth and proliferation of Candida albicans (prevalent cause of fungal infections). Remember to dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil like coconut or olive oil before use, and apply it to the infected area at least thrice daily.
While buying oregano oil, keep in mind that most of the commonly available oregano oil brands are common oregano (Origanum marjoram), not the wild oregano.
K. Lemongrass Oil
This potent essential oil is popularly known for minimizing the activity of various types of fungus. To treat scalp ringworm using lemongrass oil, mix it with a cold-pressed carrier oil like olive or coconut oil, and apply it to your affected scalp region twice daily.
L. Neem Oil
In Ayurvedic medicine, neem is renowned for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Neem oil, which is extracted from the seeds and fruits, is a potent agent in treating tinea capitis.
You can apply undiluted neem oil directly onto your affected scalp region. Leave it for 30 minutes to dry off before rinsing with a mild shampoo. You may repeat the steps twice daily for better results.
You can even try applying a mix of sesame oil, turmeric and neem oil onto the affected areas of your scalp. Let the mixture dry for 1 hour and then rinse your scalp and hair. Repeat the steps thrice weekly.
M. Camphor Oil
Camphor is popularly used in traditional chinese medicine for its anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties. It is also an excellent herbal remedy for treating scalp ringworm in both children and adults.
You can directly apply camphor powder on the affected areas of your scalp. Additionally, you may combine two teaspoons of camphor oil with one drop of sesame oil and apply the diluted mixture onto the ringworm patch.
Before you use any herbal remedies to treat your scalp ringworm, make sure to apply a small amount to a part of your unaffected skin to ensure you do not have an allergy or sensitivity to the ingredient.
3. Medicated Shampoo
Your doctor may recommend using a medicated shampoo to eliminate the fungus and prevent any further infection spread. Most of the medicated shampoos have selenium sulfide or ketoconazole as an active antifungal agent. These shampoos help prevent the ringworm from spreading, but doesn’t destroy the fungus.
Also, topical treatments don’t enter your hair shaft. Hence, your physician may ask you to take an oral medication along with 1% selenium sulfide or 2% ketoconazole shampoo in the first 2 weeks to minimize the spread.
You may have to use a medicated shampoo a few times a week for almost a month, as suggested by your doctor. Apply the shampoo onto your scalp and hair, and leave it for 5 minutes before rinsing it off.
4. Medical Treatments
Griseofulvin has been the most commonly prescribed treatment for scalp ringworm for years. It is highly effective and safe. Recent studies have shown that newer treatment agents such as fluconazole (Diflucan) and terbinafine have similar safety, effectiveness and shorter treatment courses.
For treating Trichophyton fungal infections, Terbinafine may be more effective than Griseofulvin, whereas Griseofulvin can be superior to Terbinafine for treating rare Microsporum fungal infections.
The fungal culture tests aimed at identifying the type of fungal species usually takes around 2-6 weeks to analyze the results. However, in most of the ringworm cases, the infection occurs due to Trichophyton species which makes Terbinafine a suitable choice of treatment.
Who Does Tinea Capitis Affect?
Tinea capitis mostly affects toddlers and small children, with increasing risk between the ages of 3-7 years. The scalp infection can also occur in adults, especially those with weak immunity.
Scalp ringworm is found across many geographical locations across the world. However, the predominance of a specific fungal species resulting in ringworm differs geographically.
The risk factors include:
1. Contact sport
2. Warm and humid environments
3. Recurrence of the infection
4. Household crowding
5. Animal contact
How To Diagnose Tinea Capitis?
The diagnosis of tinea capitis is performed by checking your scalp condition. In order to confirm the presence of any dermatophyte or fungal species, a Wood’s lamp test is recommended by physicians. A skin lesion biopsy with microscopic culture or examination may indicate dermatophytes. However, it doesn’t diagnose scalp ringworm.
The new diagnostic tests include molecular methods using various forms of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) screening. This method of diagnosis is far accurate and faster. Few examples include rolling circle amplification (RCA) and multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification (MPLA).
Will Hair Grow Back After Tinea Capitis?
After undergoing a successful treatment regimen for tinea capitis, you may observe normal hair growth after 6 to 12 months. Until then, you may consider wearing a scarf or hat to hide your scalp condition. Severe cases of tinea capitis can even result in scarring, inflammation and permanent hair loss.
How To Prevent Tinea Capitis?
In order to prevent all types of ringworm infections, you must practice good general hygiene. Regular cleaning of hairbrushes and combs, along with scalp shampooing is recommended. Avoid sharing your brushes, combs, headgear and other similar products with anyone.
Also, any contact with infected farm animals or pets should be avoided. A few reports have indicated that children who share sleeping mats in their daycare centres contract and spread scalp ringworm. Hence, the mats and other sharable objects should be regularly disinfected.
Everyone from a family whose member has contracted the scalp infection should be examined and treated accordingly.
How Long Does Tinea Capitis Last?
Once your scalp is infected with tinea capitis, it takes a while to heal and recover. Continue to take the prescribed medications and care as directed.
You may be asked to see your physician for a general check-up in 4-6 weeks to ensure that the infection is healing and clearing up. Remember that it can be quite difficult to completely eliminate the ringworm and it is highly likely to get the infection more than once. The infection may also recur from time to time.
The Last Word
Tinea capitis is common and contagious, which makes its prevention and management difficult. As children are more prone to this scalp condition, remember to tell your children about the impending risk of sharing personal items like combs and hairbrushes with others. Regular handwashing, shampooing and other hygiene practices can help in minimizing the occurrence and spread of infection. Ayurvedic remedies that are simple yet effective can also help you to prevent this scalp condition. At Vedix, we analyze your dosha levels and customize an Ayurvedic hair care regimen best suited for your unique hair needs.Know Your Dosha Now